The psychological and nuanced thrill of each Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street film was how the larger-than-life characters would creatively kill their next victim. Adam Green’s 2006 film Hatchet might have been the first post-modern fan-fiction revision of such ’80s slasher capstones. The legend of Victor Crowley, a bullied and deformed boy who was accidentally murdered by his father with a hatchet, returns as an undead entity roaming the swamplands in the outskirts of New Orleans in search of his father.
The awareness is sometimes purposely tongue-in-cheek and retroactively problematic; Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame plays a bayou fisherman calling his son a “queer” within the first five minutes. The plot quickly turns to Ben (Joel Moore, The Hottie and the Nottie) and Deon (Deon Richmond, Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury) going on a horny haunted swamp tour led by the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Throw in Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan) and fun, practical gore and you have the perfect ingredients for …
Wait, sorry. I got distracted by this article. This is very unprofessional of me, but as I was typing this review, I starting reading an article about this nine-year old girl in my local town who was abandoned by her parents for many years. The article says the parents are claiming the adopted Ukrainian girl was actually 22 years old and a dangerous sociopath. Whether or not the parents’ story is true, the details are oddly derivative of the movie Orphan.
Is this article actually about how much I love the movie Orphan now? Uh, yeah, I think it is. What a twist! Actually, Orphan hands-down holds a soft spot in my heart as one of the most exciting twists in a film that actually got me. If you don’t know the big reveal in Orphan, then please stop reading one paragraph ago.
Ten years ago, I went to the drive-in with my wife and younger brother to see Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, for which I was very excited. Who knows if that movie was good or not, but what followed for the double feature was a low-key thriller starring Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard as a couple who adopt a tainted rascal. (Note to self: Add “Tainted Rascal” to list of good band names.) I was hoping for something maybe unintentionally funny, but what I received was a masterpiece handed to me by the cinema gods.
What this viewing experience did for me was the joy that is often lost in modern entertainment. I was genuinely surprised, as I knew nothing about the film going in. All three of us watching the film in the car thought this was just a little girl who might be the spawn of Satan or something stupid like that. Movies like The Orphanage and The Others set the expectation for a supernatural explanation. But as the antics of little Esther heightened, it became apparent this was more of a The Good Son situation.
Just an evil kid probably would have been enough. When Esther purposely breaks her arm for attention. When she tries to kill her adopted siblings through car accidents and treehouse fires. When Esther tries to seduce her inebriated adopted father. Wait, what? Yeah, a 9-year old trying to get it on with Peter Sarsgaard is super-disturbing.
That’s because … big twist … Esther is really a 33-year old who escaped from a mental institution in Russia. This reveal shook me to my core, and suddenly Esther was a lot scarier and weirder than some swamp shit like Victor Crowley. For years I thought it was so ridiculous and over-the-top, but now it could potentially be a real-life tragedy, which is unfortunate. As a film though, Orphan is purposeful junk food and repeated fun.
All of this was enough for me to want to name my newborn daughter “Esther,” which, fortunately, we did not. The fictional character of Esther is cool and memorable. Her future exploits would have been more deserving then, say, another Annabelle or a movie about a death app. The best thing you can do is gather your friends and loved ones who have no idea what Orphan is and film their reactions. Moviegoers need more sincere excitement and fun that exchanges the need for subreddit follow-ups with opportunities to live in the moment.
Seeing Orphan for the first time is an experience I will never forget.
For most of his life, Evan Dossey has generally avoided horror films. The genre makes him profoundly uncomfortable. This means he has enormous gaps in his cinematic knowledge. Each year, he asks friends and family which essential horror movies he needs to see in order to fill those gaps and spends the better part of October agonizing over them, tossing and turning over them … and writing about them. This year, he’s sharing the month with those friends and family — letting them offer their own thoughts about the tales that terrify (or perhaps just titillate) them. This is our No Sleep October.
NO SLEEP OCTOBER 2019
Pop Skull – Richard Propes
The Ghost and the Darkness – John Tuttle
Graveyard Shift – Eric Harris
Captain Kronos – Bob Bloom
Alien – Nicole Brooks
The Night Stalker / The Night Strangler – Lou Harry
Pet Semetary (1989) – Heather Knight
Marianne – Alys Caviness-Gober